Friday, March 28, 2014

Wounded - Faith Jam

As part of the visa process for the new realm, Princess Morag had to undergo a physical examination.  One of the requirements of this physical, was to show the doctor any scars that she had, for them to be documented.  With slight bemusement at this unexpected request, the Princess opened her shirt to show the two open heart surgery scars, and then stretched her waistband far enough in order for the c-section scars to be visible.  The princess supposed it must be important for the government of the new realm to have a record of identifying marks.

The first heart surgery was when she was three years old so the princess has no recollection of her body before the wiggly worm of her scar was a main feature from collar bone to the end of her rib cage.  A mere four years later the second scar overlapped the first in some places, but was a lot straighter.  It snakes down slightly right of centre; nestled in her adult cleavage, it adds a slightly eye-catching effect.  Her scars are noticeable as they are keloid; when they were new in her childhood they were bright red, now they have faded to pale pink.  Although she did get a little frustrated as a teenager when the top of the scar was the last part to fade, the princess rarely bothers about what it looks like as her scars are simply part of her, a silent witness to her survival.  The mechanical heart valve implanted in the second surgery is the not so silent witness.

If her heart surgery scars were an indication of a new lease of life for the Princess, her c-section scars indicate literal new life.  A son and a daughter in consecutive years.

The government of the new realm have a record of Princess Morag's scars, presumably to confirm her identity - their record could one day be used as proof that she is indeed, Princess Morag.  What does a scar prove?  That once there was a wound.  In the case of Princess Morag's scar, those wounds were produced intentionally, using a scalpel, in order to bring ultimate healing to her body and new life from it.

But what of the wounds that Princess Morag has suffered that cannot be seen?  The scars that are not visible to the eye.  All of her life the princess has been asked about the scars on her chest (the other ones don't normally come up in conversation!)  She has always been happy to engage in conversation about the resolution of her congenital heart condition.  But even after that part of her broken heart was mended, her heart has been broken many more times.  A cardiologist could do nothing to fix these other wounds.  She has required a different heart surgeon.  His name is Jesus.

Jesus has scars.  Thomas said he wouldn't believe in the resurrection until he saw the marks and Jesus was happy to oblige when they were standing face to face.  (John 20)

His wounds were born of violence, but his scars bring healing.  As the princess has so often encountered, scars beg to be explained, they provoke curiosity.  Not only about how they came about, but why.  The princess can simply say, 'my scar is from open heart surgery', but really people want to know the story behind that; they want to hear the story of healing.

The princess has told her children of how they were born.  She was willing to be cut open for them to be brought safely into the world.  She is not especially brave, but she loved them and longed for them to be born.

The story of the scars of Jesus follows the same lines:

  • Despite his wounds being evidence of his body's defeat, he was restored to life - his is the ultimate story of healing.

  • And his scars are an invitation for you to be born again.

They tell the story of a Father, who loved the world so much, that he sent Jesus to us.  That he would suffer many wounds and die with his hands and feet nailed to a cross and rise again with scars from those wounds that don't just speak, but shout of healing and new life.

What visible or invisible scars do you have?  Were the wounds intentional and wrought for good?  Or were they caused by painful, violent circumstance?  Is the wound fully healed?  Is the scar almost invisible, or like the Princess's raised and obvious?

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.     Isaiah 54: 4-5

Thursday, March 20, 2014

To stay or go? That is the question.

I think it was summer 2009, the Princess and Sir Rianus got back from a trip to the new realm and were taken aback by how the world seemed to shrink once they returned to the realm of the old.  Their car was tiny, so was their apartment and the small people were growing bigger by the minute along with their stuff that seemed to multiply every time backs were turned.  Time was ticking by on the visa Sir Rianus held, and it was fully expected that the process would be problematic and expensive just like every other renewal.  So, how about making a different visa application?  One that would take the couple to the new realm permanently?  They discussed it, and concluded that it would be a good idea.

Fast forward a year.  The initial visa application was accepted but the second part would require evidence of  new realm income.  As yet, the job search had not been fruitful.  Thankfully, there was an automatic extension of another year.  So the plan was still to go, but first there was staying to do.  Princess Morag was getting uncomfortable.  The plan was to go, her heart was trying to move forward while her body was stuck in the same place - not ideal.  In the tension of waiting, and that place of unknowing, she felt like she was paralysed and in pain.  In retreat from relationships, because what was the point if they were leaving, she foolishly let her feelings build up.  Until past the tipping point she sought and found some help.

Months later, even when it was looking like the 'going' was going to happen, her counselor suggested she didn't retreat from relationships, perhaps she should actually reveal what she was really feeling?  This was a revolutionary idea to the Princess.  She was so used to people reacting badly when she shared her feelings, she thought by hiding them, she was protecting her relationships.  But these friends she had made, these precious souls who had been by her side in all this uncomfortable staying time.  Maybe she could trust them, maybe that was a good idea.  So, she tried.  And it made all that staying worth it.  Because those friendships were deepened to a point that even though she was leaving, even if she had to go and leave them behind the connection would remain; although obviously not in the same way.  She could no longer pop round for coffee, and find a hug and a listening ear.  But she could skype and call and know that in essence not much had changed despite the geographical gulf between them.

Now the Princess is facing another season of staying/going.  The going prospect is not quite so many thousands of miles away as the old realm is from the new, but still a significant move.  And she faces the same issues with how to handle friendships.  Once again she tried retreating with the same ill effects on her soul.  She still needs people.  In fact, living in uncertainty makes friendship even more precious.  Knowing that the day of going is coming, makes each day you stay more important.

The only way to stay with sanity is just to live each day as it comes.  The only way to not worry about the going is to concentrate on God's promises.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  (Matthew 6:33-34)

The princess was recently reminded to stop trying to control the uncontrollable.  She is at the mercy of circumstance and that means, she is really at God's mercy.  That's where she wants to live permanently anyway, no matter what roof is over her head.  So to trust, to have faith, to do each day well - that's what every staying one more day ought to look like.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Crowd - Five minute Friday

I had my first panic attack because of a crowd.  I couldn't breathe properly and what was supposed to be fun, really wasn't.

You can get lost in a crowd and sometimes that seems like a good idea.

Crowds and children, now there's a bad mix.  The airport was crowded, people were bustling and I was barking.  "Stay close, keep your suitcase out of the way".  They seemed so small, they could so easily get lost.

There's only four of us, but this is a small apartment.  Today I am blissfully alone, but come tomorrow, it's gonna feel crowded in here.  Sometimes that drives me crazy and sometimes it is beautiful.  Proximity is a powerful bonding agent.

The streets will be crowded, and we'll be there for the third time.  In this isolated place that we currently call home.  The horses and mules will pass by in the parade and it will seem funny once again, that I actually live in the Wild West!

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Remembrance - Faith Jam

I remember the pain.  It was driving me.  I wondered at the strange things that tempted me, that had never previously held any attraction.  I marveled at the way my pelvic bones jutted out and my stomach was flat, almost concave when I lay on my back.

It made some sort of sense.  There wasn't enough money; I had no appetite.  I filled my stomach with coffee and then there was no room for food.

I filled my mind with judgement and bitterness and then there was no room for compassion.

I mused my way through my memories of life, and found many reasons for the pain.  I wrote some of them down.  I allowed myself to see: it wasn't me.  The disappointment was not unfounded.

Now that I had physical distance, I had perspective.

What I craved, had always craved, was impossible.  It was hard to accept.  A tough pill to swallow.  Is that what was stuck in my throat?

But the craving wasn't the problem, it was seeking satisfaction from the wrong source.

I knew He was the answer, but I didn't know how to make that work.  Months before I had confessed 'I've looked to everyone for love, except directly to you' and now I needed to take that further.  Once again, I came tearfully, and told him:  'I want to trust you, Lord, but it's hard for me'.

He helped to make it easier, I read scriptures that appeared directly relevant to my life and seemed to come alive.  It took time, but the pain started to ease.  I let some people know the truth of how much I was struggling.

I don't want to forget that process.  It was like birthing pains, my fight to come out of the chrysalis.

Then came the conviction:  "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honour God with your bodies."  1Corinthians 6:19-20.

I wasn't honouring God with my body.  I was depriving it of food and telling it that it was unworthy and undeserving and must be punished.  I hadn't been entirely conscious of it.  A 'stress-reaction' was what I'd figured.  But then it dawned on me that eighteen months of stress was maybe too much.  Maybe it was time to stop.

My self-deception was the scariest part.  I hadn't trusted anyone, had been paranoid at times, yet, it turned out the least-trustworthy person was myself?!  

It was the last barrier to complete surrender.  If I couldn't trust myself, then there was no one left.  God could have all of me because He was the only one who would want me, and could do anything with me.  He was the only one who held any hope.

When I didn't eat, I felt faint and weak, I couldn't concentrate.  That was the fruit of deprivation.  My goal now is to be strong: to get physically fit and be strong in my mind and in faith.  Body, mind and spirit are linked, I can see that now.  I was trying so hard to grow in faith, but when my body and mind were weak, that was difficult.  Growing in faith is hard work - it requires fuel.

I remember the anxiety and depression.  I remember my desperation.  I remember that I needed love and mercy and grace and still do.  If I don't remember those things, pride creeps back in along with unrealistic expectations.  I had held myself, others and the world to such sky high standards, it was exhausting.  I discovered layer upon layer of brokenness in my life, it humbled me.  I am so grateful to remember how he redeemed me from that pit.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Journey - Faith Jam

I hate not knowing where I'm going.  It's why I much prefer trains to buses.  When you are on a train, the train has to follow the tracks, there are not going to be any detours (as long as you get on the right train).  On a bus...what if the driver decides to change route...there is nothing to stop him or her from doing so!

It's why I find my life difficult right now.  I don't know where we're going.  I don't know whether we are going to move city/state this year, I don't know if I'm going to find a job. It is unsettling and I don't like it very much.

When change is on the horizon, I feel like the whining kid in the backseat on a long car journey...are we nearly there yet????  If something good is planned, I enjoy the anticipation of waiting but if it is a major change or something less wonderful, I hate the waiting time.

In the church, we practise waiting twice a year.  In Advent we wait in wondrous hope for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  And during Lent we solemnly wait to remember Jesus' death but then holding our breath just for a few days we are then able to celebrate with joy his resurrection and share in the new life that he offers us at Easter.

Sometimes waiting means to share in the sufferings of Christ.  When I remember the one hundred or so days that I was waiting for my visa, those were days marked with suffering for me.  I didn't know how long I was going to be waiting.  I was homeless.  I was separated from my husband.  I was single-parenting two small children.  And even when I reached my destination, I wasn't going to know anybody there.  It was a long, hard wait.

I lived day by day, I lived by faith, I lived through the words of the psalms, I lived through the eyes of my children, I lived through new understanding, I lived through a period of grief and heartache.  The waiting changed me, it drew me closer to God.  It was another step on the curriculum of learning patience.

Then after the days and days of waiting for the visa, for the passport to be returned, for it to be the day, it came.  Then came the hours of waiting.  At the airport, on the airplane.  But these hours seemed easier.  We were nearly there - we were on the journey - we were limited in what we were able to do.  The only possessions we had access to were our hand luggage (admittedly there was a LOT).  The only space we had were our seats.  The destination was decided, and the pilot was responsible for getting us there and we didn't need to worry about that.  Constrained by those boundaries, I was more relaxed than I'd been in months.  I no longer had the illusion of having to be in control.

The other thing that helps a long journey, like that twelve hour flight with two small children, is to have things to aim for along the way.  We were filling the time getting settled into our seats and checking everything out until it was time to buckle our seatbelts and then we filled the time until it was take-off, then there was meal-time, then (please God) sleep time!!  Knowing that there are pit-stops on a journey makes it less intimidating.  Sometimes the big picture is too big to take in: I was emigrating, but thinking like that made me freak out inside, so instead it was just a transatlantic flight, the same as many I had been on before (except I was emigrating..shh).

If I view my life like I did that journey, I would probably find more peace.  I am not the pilot. I only need a few possessions for along the way (and probably only a small proportion of them in reality - I tend to over pack) and if I stop worrying about when I'm going to get there, I am a much more pleasant travelling companion!

Impatience and frustration are not attractive qualities.  Excitement and anticipation are definitely preferable when waiting for something good.  And if waiting for something that might bring sorrow, I want to strive for a quiet hope; not necessarily that the bad thing won't happen, but that God will work it all for good.

What journey are you on?  What kind of travelling companion are you?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Saturday ditty

Saturdays are made for sleeping in,
for coffee and for toast.

A quiet day,
a lazy day,
the kind I like the most.